The Dominican Republic-born photographer on documenting people’s travel habits in Monterrey, Mexico
The habits of ordinary people can be beautiful. If you wait around long enough, you might capture mundane movements and banal images of everyday life. Do it persistently and a pattern will emerge, a red thread of human behaviour will be visible. Visual poetry. It might not be how photographer Alejandro Cartagena describes his work but for all intents and purposes that’s what he’s in the business of creating. Born in the Dominican Republic but based in Mexico, Cartagena has spent the last few years documenting the travel habits of the people of Monterrey, a city in the North-East corner of Mexico. Shooting cars and trucks as they drive to work in the morning, Cartagena has been able to capture a stunning snapshot of what is probably the least exciting moment of their day. Still, the colours, texture and faces of the people, mixed with the contemporary idea of customising vehicles and the wide array of objects on display in the trucks, make for arresting imagery. As a follow up to the acclaimed Car Poolers series, Cartagena here talks about his Urban Transportation images…
“Urban Transportation is a series of images of motor vehicles used in the city of Monterrey. I wanted to portray a visually attractive point of view of many of the ways we use and personalise our vehicles in the 21st century. All the images are taken over the course of a year from a pedestrian bridge crossing one of Monterrey´s busiest highways. I shot them in the early mornings when traffic jams occur and there are a big variety of vehicles in use. I tried to shoot everything I could.
I have a very big pool of images from which I have formed the series. The selection is based on what interesting things happened with the car or truck. There are many highlights. For instance, there is a car full of post-it notes saying ‘I love you’… or the truck with a small garden in the back and a couple of desktop computers, or the two young girls chatting on the bed of the truck. I guess those little strange things catch my eye, but I also want the selection to be as inclusive as I can to paint a broader picture of urban transportation in a Mexican city.
The series a continuation of Car Poolers, as I showed that work first, but this is actually the project I was working on before I started Car Poolers. The work started as a commission for a research institute on how people use the streets in Monterrey and one of the research papers was on the relationship between the car and the street.
I started off by driving with people in their commutes to work and then eventually I began to photograph streets filled with cars. While being up on bridges and buildings looking down at these streets and highways, I started shooting images straight down.At first I photographed several cars in the same frame and then I started picking out the cars and trucks you see in Urban Transportation. The commission was mainly interested in the ‘urbanscapes’ and people in their cars so I went off and started the two projects almost simultaneously.
I have many shots that went wrong. I was shooting in high speeds but even so the cars are moving, so a lot of frames are cut or blurred. I guess I did see many surprising things but I honestly can’t recall too many of them! I wish I could have gotten a frame of some trucks with dogs on the back, or a couple of police and military trucks I never dared photograph — let’s just say it would be a bit unsafe and stupid to point something at the military in the violent context that we live in right now. I think Urban Transportation is a good way to think of the needs for production and transportation of a city… its wealth, its working class, its customs, its consumption of goods.”
More info on Alejandro Cartagena’s work HERE